My Last Japa Dog?


I may never eat at Japa Dog again. I can again eat Japa Dog—see UPDATE below.

Those who know me, realize the absurdity of that statement. I love Japa Dog. I first discovered Japadog in summer 2005 and immediately fell in love with this amazing fusion between an American classic and Japanese flavours. I may have been the first person to introduced Japa Dog to the media on a CBC radio interview with Jian Ghomeshi about street food in 2006. Since then every food geek has written about them and they’ve become a huge success, now with three locations and another to open shortly. Even Anthony Bourdain gave them his blessing on No Reservations.

But unless Japa Dog addresses their lazy and irresponsible view toward recycling, I don’t think I can support them any longer.

Am I overreacting? You tell me. I was really shocked when cooks behind the grill at multiple Japadog locations casually told me they just throw away cans and bottles and “don’t bother” to recycle. I, along with about ten customers standing in line waiting for hot dogs, were shocked and looked at each other in disbelief. The friendly Japanese cook just laughed and said “thank you!” to us.

OK, hold on here a minute. I thought I must have misunderstood him, but a quick glance down revealed a garbage can, with another one on the other side, filled with trash of all kinds—and many cans and bottles—destined for the landfill.


Japadog's idea of a recycling program. Nice.

Now, I realize that the Japa Dog employees are busy, very busy in fact, and dealing with bins full of cans is just another task for them on hot, busy days, but I would argue that could easily be handled. And isn’t it all our responsibility to recycle? It’s so expected these days, it feels almost like it is law.

Obviously the $0.05 refund isn’t a huge incentive to Japa Dog’s owner, but considering the thousands of drinks they sell each week, aren’t they throwing profit away? Couldn’t they at least donate them to a charity that could use this marginal income? OK fine, at $12/hour, it’s not worth the employee’s time to manage piles of used pop cans, but think of how much money they could generate over time for a fund toward social good? So short-sighted.

As we ate our delicious (and perhaps last) hot dog, a homeless person began rummaging through their garbage bins, not more than two feet from waiting customers, taking cans out and leaving a mess, making us all even more uncomfortable. If they’ve decided to just give them to  vagrants—which I disagree with in principle—they could at least have a separate bin for bottles and cans. The whole situation was rather shocking, but the Japanese grill cooks seemed uninterested and unconcerned.

I couldn’t help but wonder what else they “don’t bother” to do? Shudder.

Regardless of the environmental impact, the optics of this choice alone are terrible for Japa Dog’s reputation—just consider the impact of this article alone. Or the Twitter chatter that occurred after I posted a comment last night. Vancouverites take stuff like this quite seriously. So do Japanese I’ve been told. Regardless of my recently consumed Kurobuta Terimayo hot dog, the experience left a foul taste in my mouth.

Beside this rant, I have expressed my feelings to Japa Dog’s owner, Mr. Noriki Tamura, and hope to hear that changes will be made soon. Otherwise, I think I’m done with Japa Dog. I hear that Tandoori Tikka Dog is a tasty alternative.

What do you think? Would you stop patronizing a favourite restaurant for something as minor as their stance on recycling?


In a staggering example of the power of social media, I  received the following email directly from Japa Dog owner, Mr. Tamura, about 30 minutes after emailing him and posting this story:

Hi. Mr. Mark Busse.

Thank you for your Email.

I accepted with sincerity the statement.

I understand we have social responsibility now.

I told to manager at our 3 locations for this issue.
From just now, we use separately the garbage and Recycling  at our 3 location..

Thank you for advice.
And I know I made a mistake.

I appreciate.

Noriki Tamura
[email protected]

Thank God too, ’cause I could really go for a Japa Dog for lunch right now. I think it’s time for an Oroshi!


14 Responses to “My Last Japa Dog?”

  1. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    We ask where fish comes from (is it Ocean Wise?) and care whether our meat is organic, free range or otherwise properly treated. Even the mere mention of Foie Gras sparks a big ethical debate (another issue for now.)

    Yet there seems to be relative little attention paid to what happens in the industry after the meal is over, from the outside perspective at least. From my experiences in the industry (2 months as a busboy at the keg 14 years ago) the word recycling or compost didn’t exist.

    I ate at the same Japadog earlier the same day and handed my used pop can to (most likely) the same individual to recycle. I asked him to recycle it and he nodded, said sure and took it. I guess as I walked off he threw it in the trash with the rest of their garbage.

    I’m with you Mark. No more japadog for me. Too bad ’cause they are good. Just not good enough.

  2. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    Looks like your attention has caused japadog to shut down their twitter account. Apparently it was never an official account and was run by a volunteer.

    Talk about an fail. From social media fan favorite to nothing in a day…interesting happenings.

    Kudos on keeping mother nature top of mind!

  3. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    Good that this thing got resolved and so quickly (huzzah for social media) though I won’t be running back too quickly and when I do will make sure they have recycling before buying one. They have a few years of landfill filling to undo.

  4. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    Only slightly related, but: I don’t yet believe that Tikka Tandoori dog exists. I’ve tried to find them twice at lunch time, once during the week and once on a weekend, and came up blank both times.

    Would love someone to give me a precise description of their location; I walked all around Waterfront Station, up and down the stairs, and a few blocks of streets on every side to no avail.

  5. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    Mark, glad you’re back on board. Well done.

    Dave, Tikka Tandoori dog is right outside of Waterfront Station, between the angel statue and the entrance to the Impark / Steamworks parking lot. He’s there right now (July 27), amongst all of the filming that’s going on in there. Haven’t tried it yet personally.

  6. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    I couldn’t resist, so I just whipped out for a late lunch at Tandoori Tikka Dog.

    I can confirm that they do indeed exist and are located precisely where Gordon Ross says. I got there as they were packing up early today, but they said they’re normally there every day until 7pm.

    The hot dogs are pretty underwhelming and only mildly Indian in flavour and the overall experience is not nearly as impressive as Japa Dog.

    And yes, they recycle their drink containers.

  7. Posted on July 30th, 2009

    I really, really heart the Engrish that the Japadog staff speak. No, seriously. I really do.

  8. Posted on July 31st, 2009

    ^ All your oroshi are belong to us!

  9. Posted on August 2nd, 2009

    Went to the Coal Harbour location and got confirmation: no more Sakana flavour (fish sausage–Gyoniku–topped with tuna). It was a short test run. Waaa!

  10. Posted on August 2nd, 2009

    And, I can confirm that they now have a prominently displayed recycle bin for drink containers.

  11. Posted on August 5th, 2009

    It would help also if the City Of Vancouver had the recycle bins out on the busy streets. As in Toronto, they have those garbage cans with 3 compartments. One for garbage, recycle bottle/can, and one for paper. But all we get is those garbage cans with a little tray on the sides to hold cans/bottles(like enough room for 6 of them).

  12. Posted on August 26th, 2009

    Good save Mark!

  13. Posted on October 22nd, 2009

    Went by Japa Slob today – both Burrard St locations just for fun, and voila! Mixed garbage with cans, bottles, food waste and plastic utensils all in one plastic bagged garbage.
    The owner was there – not concerned, just smiled and in his novel fake broken English (by the way, he speaks fluent when he wants to)and said, “oh sorry sorry” WHF? Sorry? Ever see them wash their hands? Didn’t think so… neither….
    While I am on a rant, I used to work at Costco downtown Vancouver and Japa Man does all his food shopping at Costco; meats, condiments, Japanese condiments etc – he’s in there 3-4 mornings per week, so his hot dogs are really nothing special other than the whole Japanese thing….I guess we should at least give him a shout out for his marketing or should I say, great rock n roll swindle!

  14. Posted on February 14th, 2010

    If your hassleing a hot dog vender than you seriously need to get a hobby.

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